Friday, January 8, 2016

Star Alliance Embraces Tech Challenges

Star Alliance founder member United Airlines’ network operations center in Chicago keeps abreast of flight planning, weather forecasting, crew scheduling, maintenance control and ATC liaison. (Photo: Neelam Mathews)
Airlines pay a steep price for their memberships in global alliances, but with those costs come the benefits of pooled investment in modernizing information technology hubs and connectivity systems. For Star Alliance, the use of technology to accelerate complex booking and operational processes ranks among the chief advantages, according to executives attending a recent chief executive board meeting in Chicago hosted by founding member airline, United.
In June, Star Alliance collaborated with Sabre to use an industry-first technology to simplify booking of its Round the World fares. Travel agents connected to the Sabre global distribution system (GDS) can now book and automatically calculate the corresponding fares. In the past they often had to calculate pricing manually due to the routings involved in RTW traffic. Meanwhile passengers can now get their boarding passes for all legs of their journey and receive miles for every portion of their trip.
Star also plans to apply lessons learned from running new common IT processes at London Heathrow Terminal 2. It has found the model suitable for airports where existing infrastructure issues or space constraints limit operations. Examples include São Paolo’s Guarulhos, Tokyo Narita and LAX in Los Angeles. “Because each airport terminal is different, solutions will be different,” Star Alliance corporate vice president Christian Klick told AIN. “But we are able to include both process as well as technology solutions in all three. These include ground handling standards, self-service solutions and many behind-the-scenes processes.” Work has started to allow Air India to join Star members at Heathrow’s Terminal 2.
Star Alliance has continuously invested in developing and implementing “plug and play” systems, a concept that allows any member carrier to link its IT systems into a hub operated by the alliance, rather than having to create bilateral IT links. The concept allows Star Alliance carriers to issue boarding passes for all connecting flights on virtually any combination of interline itineraries. It has finished implementing two IT hub applications for frequent flier programs, said Klick. As a result, it has eliminated retroactive mileage crediting. In addition, the new system allows for a near instant update of the roughly 20,000 daily frequent flier status changes across all 28-member carriers.
To fulfill Star Alliance’s proposition that you can earn status miles and redeem them across the whole network, these systems have to sync behind the scenes,” said Klick. “These two big projects have made this much easier and both of them are online already….Less manual intervention is required and a lower error rate lead to efficiencies for the member airlines.”
Star Alliance has also introduced dedicated security lanes under the Star Gold Track branding for first- and business-class customers at around 70 airports worldwide. It plans to add more locations this year along with Gold Track Immigration at certain airports.

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